Visit to Reading Central, March 2011

Members of The Salvation Army wind ensemble began to gather at Reading Central premises at 1.00pm on the day of the concert, some travelling considerable distances, thus displaying their commitment to the ensemble. After practising for 3 hours they were ideally prepared to present a most enjoyable and at times challenging evening.

The local arrangements of the event were undertaken by Retired Bandmaster David Mortlock, and in his opening remarks, Andrew Mackereth, the Musical Director of the ensemble, paid tribute to the organisation which had been so helpful in the group settling in and preparing for the concert.

The ensemble was made up of orchestral brass and woodwind instruments. The music presented included rousing arrangements of Salvation Army band items, as well as items written specifically for the ensemble. Amongst the former were included Edward Gregson’s variations on Laudate Dominum which was enthusiastically received. The audience proved to be both appreciative and sensitive in that the atmosphere created by more reflective contributions were acknowledged in silence, amongst them “To him belong” written by a founder member of the ensemble Alan Lakin, and “On Eagles Wings” by Rob Wiffin.

Michael Babb’s ten year membership of the ensemble was recognised during the programme, before he introduced his own composition written especially for the ensemble based on the song “In Christ Alone” which he entitled “The Love and Power of Christ”. The arrangement beautifully exploited the orchestral tones of French horns and woodwind, not often heard in Salvation Army meetings. This performance was also appreciated in silence.

Maidenhead Songsters under their leader Graham Gray supported the programme and provided some most sensitively performed contributions, which toward the end they contrasted with more robust numbers “Swinging with the Saints” and “Blessed be the Lord” featuring Songster Carol Gray as the soloist.

This proved to be an admirable prelude to Self Denial Sunday for which the leaders were Majors Stephen and Heather Poxon from THQ. Major Stephen’s message on the Gospel of the second chance brought mercy seat responses, and Major Heather, used here experience of living in Africa to challenged the congregation to be generous when contrasting on how little Salvationists abroad have to exist, yet how fulsome they are in their praises to God.

Patricia Bennett
Reading Central Salvation Army